John Baxter (Tony Roberts) is a reporter who specialises in debunking, and his investigations have led him to the house in Amityville where not only did a sensational mass murder take place, but supposedly a haunting afflicted the property subsequently. There are a couple who are conducting seances at the distinctive-looking house and Baxter ventures along there one night with partner Melanie (Candy Clark) who claims to want to contact a lost son, and lo and behold once they have settled in the front room with the medium, they manage to get through to the other side...
Ah, but it's all a trick, a way of parting the gullible from their cash, which might have been a comment on the whole Amityville phenomenon, and then again might have been more of a way of setting up the lead character as someone who will be convinced of the supernatural before the end credits rolled. As if Scooby-Doo had taught us nothing, there was little certain horror movies like to do than prove a sceptic wrong, and Baxter was the latest scientifically-minded lamb to the paranormal slaughter. There was a curious disclaimer on this telling us it was in no way connected to the first two movies in the series, however.
Meaning they were covering themselves by saying those other two entries? Absolutely true, every word. This one? Purest bullshit from beginning to end, so don't get this mixed up with the gospel truth of those other efforts - yes, people really were murdered, and new residents really were freaked out by, er, something or other, but the guy from Annie Hall getting well and truly spooked, nah, don't believe a word of it, this was the magic of the movies here, it's only make-believe. On the subject of the magic, as the title indicated this was a 3D film, made during that brief boom in the eighties where the third dimension was seen as the obvious option to encourage audiences away from video.
Much like 3D was utilised as a method of turning audiences away from piracy in the twenty-first century, though whether either were hugely effective was a moot point. There was a sketch in the eighties Lenny Henry Show which spoofed the obvious tricks a 3D movie would employ which got movies like this spot on: essentially, in lieu of any quality filmmaking they would aim for poking object in the viewer's eyes and pass that off as a great night out, and so it was here with various bits and bobs looming or zooming out at you in the hope it would make you duck, and maybe even ignore the fact that the rest of the movie wasn't all that great. Even without these tricks, this Amityville instalment wouldn't be particularly impressive.
Roberts made a solid everyman hero, but it was part and parcel of the personalities here that everyone came across as pretty square, all except for Meg Ryan who played the teenage friend of Baxter's daughter Susan (Lori Loughlin), who starts rambling about sexual relations with ghosts and instigates a seance of her own later on. Everyone else was fairly straightlaced, including Robert Joy as the boffin who is brought in for a scientific examination of the haunting for the finale - another sceptic for the pit - and Tess Harper as Baxter's estranged wife. Both Roberts and Harper got an unexpectedly effective scene about two thirds of the way through which was actually quite sad if you thought about it beyond the way the script had turned the Amityville story into the basis for a spooky slasher movie. Elsewhere, it was too blatantly in the wake of Poltergeist only with gorier effects (well, occasionally), and more than that just lacking in real surprises. Music by Howard Blake.